The journalist and novelist Mark Goldblatt has frequently gone out on a limb to criticize insalubrious aspects of today’s black American culture, an activity that tends to bring anger, fear, scorn, and general cultural exile. His posture is truly a courageous one, and it is highly salutary for black Americans, who, like all of us, cannot reach their great potential unless they are held to the same high expectations as other Americans.
Hence Goldblatt’s excellent National Review Online article today on Michael Vick and on Whoopi Goldberg’s absurd defense of him on the TV program The View is very important indeed. Goldblatt writes,
[W]hat are we to make of Goldberg’s empathy for Vick? The most likely conclusion is that it’s driven not by cultural understanding but by racial solidarity. There remains, even in 2007, a reflexive tendency among prominent blacks to circle the wagons when “one of their own” comes under media fire. The fallacy here is that skin color makes a sociopath like Vick one of anyone’s own — except perhaps other sociopaths. (If you doubt Vick is indeed a sociopath, consider this lovely excerpt from his indictment: “In or about April 2007 . . . Vick executed approximately eight dogs that did not perform well in ‘testing’ sessions at 1915 Moonlight Road by various methods, including hanging, drowning and slamming at least one dog’s body to the ground.”)
To be sure, not all black celebrities have rallied to Vick’s cause. Hip-hop mogul Russell Simmons has called on Nike to drop the line of sneakers endorsed by Vick. But such voices have been few and far between.
Michael Vick is a sadist, plain and simple. The fact that sadistic elements pervade hip-hop culture is sad, and a cause for concern, but in no way diminishes his individual guilt, or the evil in his soul.
Goldblatt and Russell Simmons are right: people in general will live up to our expectations of them. The term "the tyranny of low expectations" is powerfully true and vitally important for our society to overcome.
And when such expectations are incorporated into a powerful cultural movement, the task of turning them back becomes that much more difficult.
It is thus particularly incumbent upon individuals such as Goldberg, who claim to be sympathetic with people from economically, socially, and morally disadvantaged backgrounds, to recognize the importance of expectations and fit their judgments to the goal of strengthening the moral fiber of society’s least-prepared individuals.
In general, Goldberg does the very opposite, erroneously assuming that sympathy with the underdog requires an indulgence of their bad choices under the assumption that they simply cannot do any better. In fact what is required is the very opposite.
Real compassion means doing what other people really need, not validating everything they want. Goldberg may think that she is being appropriately understanding and sympathetic, but what she is really being is arrogant and stupid.